Creating a garden notebook to track your successes (and failures) in the garden is an excellent way to love your yard. Thomas Jefferson kept a garden journal for nearly 60 years and took notes on the details of massive garden at Monticello and Shadwell. In fact, he experimented growing nearly 330 varieties of 70 species of vegetables alone!  His copious note taking (which he applied to all of his many ventures and experiments in life) enabled him to successfully track what worked and what didn’t – making him smarter about his gardening choices.

In the same vein, we can easily create a simple notebook or journal to help us gain a greener thumb. Each spring hopeful homeowners invade nurseries and home improvement stores, distracted by sweet-smelling blooms or brilliant colors. In fact, according to the National Gardening Association U.S. households spent $29.5 billion on their lawns and gardens in 2013. That’s a lot of investment in our yards that we are willing to make – and it’s disappointing when our plants fail to survive. Trial and error is part of the learning curve in home improvement but no homeowner wants to waste time or money. Creating a notebook will help you make smarter, and better choices for your yard and garden.

Your notebook or binder should be simple: pieces of paper in which you can tape or staple plant identification tags on to. Allow enough room to take notes around each plant name (you should note planting location, date of planting, any fertilizers used, and any other determining factors such as a drought or period of late frost). Consider having separate tabs by type of plant (vegetables, fruits, perennials, annuals, etc.) or separate tabs by area of your yard (containers, front yard, side yard, etc.). Zippered envelopes can help keep extra plant tags, pencils and other items relating to your garden. Taking “before” photos of certain areas will be important as your garden grows – it will be the best snapshot of how much your yard has changed. If possible, take the photos each year on the same day, pick a date that’s easy to remember like the First Day Of Spring (this year it’s March 20, 2014) or April Fool’s Day (April 1, 2014).

Many designers have printable journals or journal inserts that you can purchase online (like this one) and some book binders even have beautiful bound keepsake books (like this example).  So go ahead, get out in the yard and start your garden work for the spring. It’s a good way to love your home and to love your health!

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden…But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” – Thomas Jefferson, 1811

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